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Lewis Hamilton has urged protesters to stay away from Formula One races despite initially responding to Sunday’s Silverstone sit-in by raising a fist and declaring: “Big up those guys.”
The seven-time world champion’s reaction had been squarely at odds with the views of race winner Carlos Sainz and Northamptonshire Police, who both condemned the incident in the strongest terms.
Asked to clarify his position in the immediate aftermath of the race, Hamilton doubled down on his support for the Stop the Oil zealots’ campaign: “I just said, big up the protesters. I love that people are fighting for the planet and we need more people like them.”
But on Sunday night Hamilton claimed he was unaware that protesters had rushed the track and pleaded with protesters not to trespass on the track. “As we’ve seen today, this is a very dangerous sport,” he wrote on social media. “I wasn’t aware of the protests today, and while I’ll always support those standing up for what they believe in, it must be done safely. Please don’t jump onto our race circuits to protest, we don’t want to put you in harm’s way. ”
Seven people were arrested after jumping the barriers and sitting cross-legged on the track at the British Grand Prix.
Video of the protestors invading the track during the first lap.
If there hadn’t have been a red flag for the crash, this could have been horrific for many people. #BritishGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/8HaGmoFLNn
— Helèna Hicks (@_HelenaHicks) July 3, 2022
Given the police’s condemnation of the protest as “incredibly dangerous” – a perspective backed up by Sainz, who argued that the track invaders could have been killed or caused a serious accident – Hamilton’s initial comments, giving the group of seven demonstrators his full backing, had appeared extraordinary.
The protesters, who wore bright orange tops, rushed on to the Hangar Straight moments after Zhou Guanyu’s sickening first-corner crash, which had triggered a red flag.
Sainz said: “I thought the red flag was for that, because as soon as I came out of Turn Five, I saw three guys running towards me. People have the opportunity to speak out, because it is their right, but I don’t believe jumping into a Formula One track is the best way to do it. You put yourself and the drivers at risk. You have to be more careful, because you could get killed and generate an accident.”
Tom Thompson, Northamptonshire Police’s event commander, said: “I’m really disappointed that this group of people ignored our warnings prior to race day and made the incredibly dangerous decision to enter the track.
“We offered to facilitate a peaceful event at the circuit but they instead chose to put the lives of the drivers, marshals and volunteers at risk. It is incredibly disappointing that anyone would make the decision to do this. Thankfully we had plans in place, and the group were swiftly removed and arrested by our officers. All seven are in custody.”